A better priest(part 1)

Oct 28, 2007 by: Sam Hestorff| Series: The Book of Hebrews | Category: Hebrews
Scripture: Hebrews 6:13–6:20

When things go wrong in your life, when your world is shaken up, when it feels like everything is caving in around you and life is out of your control . . . where do you find hope?

It seems like much of our lives revolve around building some sort of security in order to obtain a sense of hope . . . that it's going be ok in the end.  We buy a home to provide shelter and protection, we purchase insurance to protect us against the unforeseen, we build up our bank accounts to assure the resources of tomorrow, and we look for relationships that will give us comfort. 

Yet in the back of our minds we know that all of these could be gone in a moment and all that we have really provided is a temporary fix. 

Some people have fallen so deep into this sense of hopelessness that they feel as if they are never going to be able to crawl out.  Maybe you have been there.

But God says that life is more than what we can see immediately, there is more to us than our present lives.  Our current circumstances do not define who we are or what we are about.  Through God's Word and his promises, we find encouragement that comes from knowing that we play a part in the bigger picture of God's narrative of hope.

This evening I want to start off with a game.  I am going to give you a list of biographical facts and I want you to see if you can identify the person I am talking about. (the following is adapted from a sermon by Dr. Arturo Azurdia)

  • He was a descendant of Shem (one of the three sons of Noah)
  • He grew up in a place called Ur, an ancient city in Mesopotamia
  • He and his family came from a family of Idol worshippers and yet hundreds of years after his death, he has been called the father of all who believe.
  • His given name meant "exalted father" but later in life that name was changed by God to mean "the father of many"
  • He was a married man and he and his wife had one child - in a time in life where they were both advanced in age.
  • She preceded him in death and he died at the age of 175

Do you know who he is?  To the writer of the book of Hebrews, he is someone of great importance because ten times, he is mentioned by name. 

Perhaps you have guess it . . . His name is Abraham.  And the reason he is mentioned so often is because his life embodied a virtue that people needed so desperately . . . a virtue that we need so desperately . . . the virtue of hope.

His story can be found in the book of Genesis.  It begins in chapter 12 with the call of God to Abram, who is still an idol worshiper and yet God comes to him and makes him an incredible promise. Read Genesis 12:1-3

God says that all people will be blessed through him.  Now that is a significant promise but what is more incredible about this story, to me, is Abraham's response. (read vs 4)

He believes what this unknown God has said to him and picks up his stuff and moves.

Why is this incredible?

  • Abraham is 75 years old - not a time in life when we are thinking about relocating
  • Abraham had lots of stuff - many years of accumulation, so to pick up and move was going to be a big task.
  • Abraham doesn't have any offspring and it's not like his wife and he were getting any younger and so the idea of being a great nation had to have seem far fetched.

And yet, he was confident in the promise of God and so he was obedient. 

The story continues with Abraham traveling with his brother Lot and along their journey, they decide to part ways and at that time God comes to Abraham a second time and he reiterates his promise (Read 13:14-17). 

Now we have to remember that Abraham still has no children, there is no offspring to fulfill this promise but he still believes and he continues to be obedient. 

Days go by, weeks go by, months go by, years go by and there is still no heir for Abraham and then God speaks to Abraham again in chapter 15.

When God appears to Abraham, Abraham says to God, "I'll tell you what, let me help you out with this offspring thing - it's clear that its not going to happen for Sara and I, so let a servant in my household become my heir".

But God walked Abraham outside and he said "look up in the sky and count the stars, those are how numerous your descendants will be"

And then to reinforce this commitment that God has made to Abraham, God asks him to do something that seems very odd to you and I.  He told Abraham to cut some sacrificial animals into pieces and to lay them on the ground opposite of one another. 

When the sun had set, God appeared in the symbol of a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch inside and he himself passed between the pieces of that carved animal.

Now you may be wondering, what is that all about? 

In the ancient world, it was something referred to as "cutting a covenant".  When two parties entered into a covenant relationship, they would cut these animals in pieces and walk between them signifying that they too should be torn apart like these animals if they were to break this covenant between one another.

What is interesting is that only God passes through the pieces - making it very clear to Abraham that God takes on full responsibility to meet the demands of the covenant.  In other words, he is showing to Abraham that "I will keep my word - I promise"

And then 25 years later, Abraham and Sarah have a child - Finally, the promise that God had made to Abraham so long ago was at least in bloom.  His name was Isaac, which means laughter and that's what they did every time they looked at him and realized what God had done with them and through them.

But when Abraham least expects it, his laughter is suddenly silenced by the most shocking command ever given by God to man.  Listen to this . . . Read Genesis 22:2

Can you imagine how Abraham felt?  His entire life had been wrapped up in being obedient to God.  His entire life had been turned upside down by following this hope of God's promise being fulfilled and now here is God saying sacrifice your son, the very child in which God would fulfill his promise.

It didn't make sense, and yet the very next morning Abraham packed up his donkey, assembled everything he needed to make a sacrifice and he begins the journey up the mountain.

And as I read this text I have to wonder . . . How could he do this?  How could he be willing to sacrifice his son?

I believe that the text gives us a clue. He says to his servant, "we will worship and we will come back".  "we" will go up and "we" will come back.

You see, Abraham was totally convinced that he would return with Isaac because he believed in the promise of God.  He didn't know of the immediate outcome, he wasn't sure about how it would work itself out but he is positive about the long term solution because God had made a promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

But Abraham was still a man and I am sure that the internal struggle within was tremendous because this was his only son whom he loved and when Isaac realized what was happening and he submitted to his father, I can imagine that there tears and kisses and nausea and sickness. 

But as the blade in Abraham's trembling hand was raised, the angel of God shouts out and says "Do not lay a hand on the boy". 

This is a scene in the bible that many of us know well but do you know what God said right after this?  Read Verse 15

He says, I swear by myself that I will fulfill my promise to you.

You see, God had promised and promised and promised and right here God reinforces his promise by swearing an oath.  And he does this by swearing by himself. 

But oaths are for humans - who by our very nature are liars and need oaths to hold us accountable.

So, why would the God who always speaks truth and is Truth make an oath . . . to himself? 

Turn with me to Hebrews 6:13-18

So, why did Go make an oath to himself?

To answer this question, we first have to answer another question . . .

When did Abraham receive what he was promised?  He had waited 25 years for God to give him a son.  He has to wait another 60 years before his grandsons Jacob and Esau are born.  In other words, Abraham has to wait 100 years from the time that God made his first promise to him and all he has to show for it are three descendants, only two of which are in the covenant.

Abraham received his promise when he came face to face with the one in whom this promise would be realized, Jesus Christ.  He saw glimpses of it through his son but he saw it in its fullness after he died and he came face to face with Jesus Christ, a seed from his own line, through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.

You see, the promise that God gave to Abraham was not just for Abraham but it was for us.  To those who have called upon the Lord. 

God made an oath so that we who have take refuge in Jesus Christ might have great encouragement to take hold of the hope offered to us.  And the foundation of this encouragement rests in the character of God, who cannot lie.

God did all that with Abraham - he made promise after promise after promise and swore to his promise withan oath to himself - so that he might stimulate us - heirs of the promise - to cling more tightly to Jesus Christ who is our hope.

You see, God keeps his word, but he does so in his own time.  And the writer of Hebrews is saying to imitate those who are faithful and patient because they will inherit what has been promised. 

But how do we do this?  How do we remain faithful and patient when the burden that is upon us feels so heavy?  How do we remain patient in our hurry up culture?  How do we remain patient when we want the promises of God now?  How do we remain patient when we need to have a sense of security and stability in our lives . . . right now?

The answer is to develop the virtue of hope that was exemplified through Abraham.  He was patient and obedient and was able to stay the course because he was confident that God would keep his promise.

But what is the benefit of having hope, when your pain is here and now?  What is the benefit of having hope, when you so desperately need stability in order to survive?

The author of Hebrews says that hope is "the anchor for the soul, firm and secure"

It provides an anchor for the soul . . . it provides stability.  When things around you seem chaotic, wild and out of control, this hope will be a stabilizing force in your life.  It is the anchor for your soul.

But he also says that "it enters into the inner sanctuary behind the curtain"

What an interesting blend of metaphors, using a nautical illustration and a vision of our high priest entering the Most holy place to make atonement for the elect.

During the first century, there was a common practice of a small pilot boat coming out to sea to greet a larger boat and to get its anchor.  The pilot boat would then take the anchor into the harbor and drop it in a safe place.  The larger boat could then safely follow its anchor into the harbor. 

What a great metaphor of what Christ, our hope, has done for us. 

He has experienced this life; he has faced the toughest circumstances ever imaginable.  He has gone before us and secured our souls by passing through to the most holy place.  And he stands next to his father in heaven with his arms wide open and he calls to us . . .

Come unto me all who are weary and weak . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me all who are burdened . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me all who are thirsty and frail . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me all who are sorrowed . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me all whose lives have been shaken . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me all those who live in chaos . . . for I will give you rest

Come unto me . . . for I will give you rest.

Come unto me.  Come unto me.

For I am your hope.

 

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